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Best European Countries to Visit
Switzerland: Land of Chocolate and Happiness
The Swiss people eat more chocolate per capita than any other nation, and yet the men there have the longest life expectancy of any western country. Is it coincidence? The peace-loving central European country is famous for chocolate, fondue, inventiveness and high-end watches. And now, for the third year in a row, Switzerland has been named the world’s best country, according to the annual ranking from US News and World Report.
Switzerland is a land-locked central European country surrounded by France, Italy, Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein. It is mostly mountainous, with the Alps covering about 60% of the land area. This gives the country its dramatic and photogenic profile, with snow-covered peaks and cold, clear mountain lakes. There is a central plateau where most of the 8.5 million Swiss citizens live, in the cities of Zurich (the largest), Geneva, Lucerne, and the administrative capital of Bern.
The geography naturally leads to the two favorite activities in Switzerland: skiing and hiking. In winter, skiers and boarders flock to the resort areas of Zermatt, in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and Saint Moritz, with its long, winding intermediate runs. The Matterhorn is open for skiing all year, with a persistent snow cover on its famous glacier. The Four Valleys area, including Verbier, is also legendary for long, off-piste runs - all accessible with a single lift pass.
Hiking anywhere in the Alps is spectacular, with alpine lakes inviting you to take a swim along the way. Long green valleys light up at sunrise and the sky is a bright blue above snow-capped peaks. You can start your single day hike or multi-day backpacking trip in Grindelwald-First and hike to the Faulhorn in an afternoon or continue the following day on a challenging trail with spectacular views over the Brienzersee Lake to the Schynige Platte. Hiking around the many lakes is always rewarding, with wilderness views and clear water. A hike around the turquoise Oeschinensee Lake, halfway between Zermatt and Bern, takes less than 4 hours.
Social Equality and Human Rights
Switzerland considers human rights as the foundation of the nation's value system, as represented in the Federal Constitution and political model. Promotion of peace, mutual respect, equality and non-discrimination are central to the country's democratic society. No taxes can be passed without a national vote. There are laws guaranteeing rights for all minorities and for children. There is no death penalty, and the country actively seeks the abolition of capital punishment on the world stage.
In the aftermath of the second world war, the famous Geneva Convention established worldwide standards for treatment of soldiers and civilians in war. The United Nations Human Rights Council, and the International Red Cross are both headquartered in Geneva. The promotion of democracy is one of the five official policy goals of Switzerland. The country is well known for its love of peace and diplomacy. It has a reputation for being neutral and has not been involved in a war since 1847.
Quality of Life
Beautiful surroundings certainly contribute to Switzerland’s appeal, but the social environment is also a factor. Excellent health care, good eating habits and high participation in sports are visible everywhere throughout the country. There are low rates of obesity and diabetes. The national health care plan boasts excellent doctors and hospitals, so it’s no surprise that life expectancy is high.
Swiss society tends to be orderly, conformist, clean and safe. Public transportation runs on time, and poverty is relatively low compared to neighboring European countries. On the UN’s World Happiness Report, Switzerland ranks in the top ten every year, and in the Quality of Life Rankings for 2019 compiled by CEOWorld Magazine, Switzerland ranked number two (after Denmark).
All of these factors contribute to the perception that Switzerland is a desirable place to visit and a great place to live, work and raise a family. But all things considered, we are pretty sure it’s the chocolate.
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